What I’d Rather Say When Someone Asks, ‘How Are You?’

I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on June 7, 2014, just a few weeks shy of my 13th birthday. Every day since then I’ve been greeted by everyone I know with a “How are you?” This is usually a normal greeting for anyone, but after being diagnosed with a disease like cancer, the “How are you?” is accompanied by worried eyes, furrowed brows and nodding heads. Every day I’m asked this seemingly simple but deeper than imaginable question, and every day I respond with “Good, how are you?”

To be completely honest, I’m not always good. As a matter of fact, I’m almost always not good. I take anywhere from four to 20 oral medications a day, all of them with different side effects. I’m tired, I’m extremely cold or extremely hot. My muscles ache, my eyes water, my head hurts, I feel nauseous and all that’s on my mind is the nap I want to take later.

But no one uttering this three-word question wants to know my real answer. They would rather me say, “Good, how are you?” and move on.

On top of the oral medications I take at home, I also go to the hospital once a month where I’m poked at, stuck and infused with more powerful medications straight into my port. And some days it physically hurts to pick up my book bag and sling it over my shoulder. It’s an action most high schoolers wouldn’t think twice about, but it has nearly brought me to my knees on several occasions.

I don’t eat breakfast and sometimes lunch. I don’t go out to eat, and if you catch me on a rare night out, I’m close to home and not out for long. I’ve ruined many dinner outings by having to leave early for fear of being sick in a room full of strangers. I get checked out from school all the time. I’m never caught up on work from absent days spent at the hospital, and I had to quit my favorite sport for over two years.

Another issue is my group of friends. Through chemo, I lost everything. I lost some of my friends, my hair and myself. But it took losing those things to find out who I really am. I have changed immensely throughout the past two years, but my friends didn’t, or at least not as much as I have. I was forced to grow up before I realized what was happening. I find it harder to communicate and understand the drama and chit-chat among my group of closest friends because my mind is elsewhere.

I also find myself getting asked this same question multiple times within the same conversation by the same person as if they don’t believe my first or even second answer. A large majority of the time I’m asked how I am, and I don’t even know myself. I don’t know how to put my feelings and thoughts into words enough to actually convey the truth of how I am.

My treatment is coming to an end, so these things are happening less and less. Day by day, these things are disappearing, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

So let me conclude by saying, “I’m good, how are you?”

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

The Mighty, in partnership with Fuck Cancer, is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself in regards to a cancer diagnosis. What would you say or wish someone had told you? Find out how to email us a story submission here.

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